Gonzaga Faces Nevada For Ticket To Sweet 16

March 19, 2004

GAME: No. 10 Nevada (24-8) vs. No. 2 Gonzaga (28-2).

REGIONAL: St. Louis, Second Round.

TIME: Saturday, 3:20 p.m. EST.

SITE: KeyArena; Seattle.

Friday Press Conference Notes

NCAA Tournament Notes

Nevada got the crowd in its corner against Michigan State. The Wolf Pack may need to call in even more reinforcements in the second round.

Coming off one of the biggest upsets of the first day of the NCAA tournament, Nevada will try to keep its run going when it meets Gonzaga for the right to play in the round of 16.

Despite trailing by 16 points early in its first-round game, Nevada caught its collective breath and rallied for an improbable 72-66 win over seventh-seeded Michigan State on Thursday - the first tourney win in school history.

"That's all it was - just a matter of time before we got comfortable with the guys we were playing against," guard Kirk Snyder said.

"Coach told us the crowd would be behind us if we played hard. It's the American way - underdogs win."

Snyder, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year, finished with 19 points to help Nevada earn its first victory over a Big Ten opponent in nine tries.

The task will be decidedly more difficult for Nevada in the second round as it will face Gonzaga, the third-ranked team in the nation, in what should be considered a home game for the Bulldogs.

Wolf Pack coach Trent Johnson woke up Friday with a new set of headaches.

"Gonzaga has no weaknesses," Johnson said. "We've got problems all over the place. We've got to be at our best defensively to win."

He's concerned about Zags point guard Blake Stepp, who had an uncharacteristically poor 2-for-11 performance from the floor in Gonzaga's first-round win over Valparaiso.

"The game is at noon. Maybe he'll show up at 4," Johnson said.

Gonzaga put Valpo away in the second half, winning 76-49 for its 21st straight victory overall.

The second-seeded Bulldogs started slowly - perhaps feeling the weight of the school's highest seeding in seven NCAA tournaments - but finished with a flourish, outscoring Valpo 24-8 over the final 10 minutes.

"We don't really care about the seeding. We're just trying to play hard," said Ronny Turiaf, who scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half. "We just try to look at ourselves and don't worry about the seed we've got. We're focused on ourselves and what we can do, who we are."

Corey Violette added 13 points and 10 boards, and Stepp finished with 13 and nine, respectively. After doing interviews following the game, Stepp returned to KeyArena and practiced his shot as cleaning crews went to work.

"It was as bad a night shooting as I've ever had," Stepp said. "But we've got so many guys who can score that it doesn't matter if I'm struggling."

Gonzaga leads the all-time series 4-2, including a 90-75 win over Nevada in 1995 in the last meeting. The winner of this game will face either No. 3 Georgia Tech or No. 6 Boston College on Monday in the round of 16.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Nevada - F Nick Fazekas (12.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg), F Kevinn Pinkney (9.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg), G Garry-Hill Thomas (9.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg), G Kirk Snyder (18.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), G Todd Okeson (10.9 ppg, 3.9 apg). Gonzaga - F Turiaf (15.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg), F Erroll Knight (6.1 ppg and 3.1 rpg), C Violette (13.8 ppg and 8.0 rpg), G Stepp (14.8 ppg and 7.0 apg), G Kyle Bankhead (5.9 ppg and 2.8 apg)..

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Nevada - Automatic bid, Western Athletic Conference champion; beat Michigan State 72-66, first round. Gonzaga - West Coast Conference champion; beat Valparaiso 76-49, first round.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Nevada - 1-2, 3 years. Gonzaga - 9-6, 7 years.



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